If you are planning to visit a Disney Park in 2021, there will be some huge changes you’ll have to keep in mind — the first one being that all U.S. Disney Parks are requiring reservations in order to get in.
That means that unless you have made a reservation in advance (or the day of, if you’re lucky enough to score a last-minute reservation), you will not be able to spontaneously visit a Disney theme park. The new reservation system — called Disney Park Pass — has been in place at Walt Disney World Resort since the Florida Disney theme parks reopened amid the pandemic in mid-July. And, if you’re a Disneyland fan, bear this in mind: the Disney Park Pass system will also be in place at Disneyland Resort.
So, how will theme park reservations work at Disneyland, and what issues may arise? Who will get priority reservations, and why some may be left disappointed? In this article, we take a deep dive into how the Disney Park Pass system might work at Disneyland Resort — and why it may be a concern for Annual Passholders — once the California Disney Parks reopen their gates.
Disney Park Pass at Disney World
As mentioned, Disney Park Pass is the official theme park reservation system at Disney World. Hopeful Guests — whether they are Annual Passholders, Disney Resort hotel Guests, or theme park ticket holders — must log onto the Disney World website through their My Disney Experience account and make a reservation in advance to visit a Walt Disney World theme park.
But, who gets priority? Well, Disney World has a certain number of reservations available for Annual Passholders, hotel Guests, and those who only have theme park tickets (without a vacation package booked). So, a Guest can log online to view the Disney Park Pass availability calendar and figure out if there are any theme park reservations available for their ticket type.
Sometimes, the availability for Annual Passholders, those with hotel vacation packages, or those with just theme parks tickets will fill up. And often, Disney will reassess the availability and add more Disney Park Passes for select days. But, with capacity limitations, you can expect Disney Park Passes to be fully booked periodically depending on how busy the parks are, whether it’s a holiday or long weekend, or what is happening at Disney World at that time.
Although we know how the Disney Park Pass reservation system works at Walt Disney World Resort, at Disneyland, it will likely come with its own battles. Here’s what we mean.
Theme Park Reservations at Disneyland
Disney officials have confirmed that they are ready to roll out the Disney Park Pass reservation model at Disneyland Resort as soon as Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park are allowed to open.
Patrick Finnegan, Vice President, Disney California Adventure Park & Downtown Disney District, said previously, “We are ready to launch the theme park reservation model in use at Walt Disney World to maintain capacity limits [at Disneyland]…Many of the lessons learned in Florida are already being adopted as we prepare for our reopening.”
However, aside from this September update, the only information about the Disney Park Pass system at Disneyland that we have to rely on is what is written on the Disneyland Resort official website:
Park Reservations: Because theme park capacity will be significantly limited to comply with governmental requirements and promote physical distancing, we will manage attendance through a new theme park reservation system that will require all Guests, including Annual Passholders, to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance. Theme park reservations will be subject to availability. More details about this new reservation system will be available soon.
We might not have much information from Disneyland specifically, but we can speculate about how the Disney Park Pass system will be implemented at Disneyland.
Who will get priority?
Perhaps the biggest question that Disneyland Resort locals, Annual Passholders, and hopeful Guests want to be answered is this: who will get priority Disney Park Pass reservations?
Annual Passholders and locals make up a huge majority of daily Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme park visitors. And although Disneyland Resort has a robust Annual Passport program and many APs feel truly valued by the company, it wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise if not all APs got priority access to Disney Park Pass reservations.
At Walt Disney World, Annual Passholders are on an even playing field when it comes to obtaining Disney Park Pass reservations, though their pass blackout dates still apply. However, at Disneyland, perhaps it would make more sense for higher level APs to get priority reservations over others.
Disney could decide to allow for those with the more expensive Annual Pass types to get first dibs on obtaining Disney Park Pass reservations, and then those with less expensive passes can go next, and so on. This would make sense since Disney introduced the less expensive Flex Pass, which has very few blackout dates but already required Guests to make a park reservation in advance on peak dates.
Alternatively, there is also a chance that those with reservations at one of the three hotels of the Disneyland Resort (the Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa) will get priority.
Why would this be a possibility, if APs are the most reliable Disneyland Guests and we know Disney values them? Well, in the past, Disneyland has given priority registration to hotel Guests — we saw this occur when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge first opened.
When the new Star Wars-themed land opened at Disneyland, Disney said that those with onsite hotel reservations were guaranteed access to this new area of the park. Essentially, if you booked a stay at one of the three Disneyland Resort hotels, you were automatically given a reservation for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. So, we wouldn’t be surprised if something similar was in place when Disney Park Pass reservations become available for Disneyland.
Note that Disney has not shared any details about who (if anyone) will get priority reservation access to the Disney Park Pass system when Disneyland and Disney California Adventure reopen. This is simply our speculation based on what we know so far and what we suspect may need to happen.
How far in advance can reservations be made?
Additionally, a possible concern for Disneyland fans is the question of how far in advance Disney Park Pass reservations can be made.
At Walt Disney World, the Disney Park Pass reservation system is expected to be in place at least until 2022. And, right now, Guests can make theme park reservations for any of the four Disney World parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom) very far in advance. Just a couple of months ago, fans were already making theme park reservations for the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary on October 1, 2021.
However, it’s important to note that Disney World Guests are used to making reservations several months in advance. Typically, a person who books a Disney World vacation package can make a dining reservation for a table-service restaurant six months ahead of time. Additionally, certain Guests were able to make FastPass+ reservations (though not currently available due to the pandemic) up to 30-60 days in advance depending on your ticket or package type.
At Disneyland, on the other hand, that isn’t the case. Dining reservations for restaurants at Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Downtown Disney, or any of the three onsite hotels can only be made 60 days in advance. And many people don’t even think about making reservations until around a week or so beforehand. Since Disneyland Resort is mostly visited by locals and Annual Passholders, there typically isn’t much of a need to plan so far ahead of time.
Therefore, we wouldn’t be surprised if Disney Park Pass reservations at Disneyland and DCA were treated similarly to dining reservations. There is a chance that a Disneyland Guest may not be able to make a theme park reservation until 60 days before the date of their planned visit. Or maybe, given the way the Disneyland Flex Pass AP works, a theme park reservation will only be allowed 30 days ahead of time.
What about out-of-state visitors and APs?
There is also the concern regarding out-of-state visitors, whether they are theme park ticket holders or Annual Passholders.
For those who plan trips to Disneyland in advance with the intention of staying anywhere from two days to a week, there may be concerns regarding how many Disney Park Pass reservations will be allowed at once. If a Disneyland AP from another state plans to spend four days at the theme parks and stay offsite, how many theme park reservations will they be allowed to make at a time? That isn’t a question we can currently answer, but it is certainly something to consider.
At Disney World, APs are allowed to make a limited number of Disney Park Pass reservations if they are not staying at a Disney Resort hotel. Annual Passholders and theme park ticket Guests who are staying on Disney World property are allowed to make as many Disney Park Passes as their vacation requires.
At Disneyland, however, staying onsite isn’t nearly as common — Disneyland Resort only has three onsite hotels, and each costs much more than the least expensive Disney World hotel. So, there is a chance Disney will need to adjust this policy for Disneyland.
Right now, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the Disney Park Pass reservation system at the Disneyland Resort. We aren’t yet sure if the Disney World rules for theme park reservations will apply to Disneyland. For now, we remain hopeful that Disney will make some adjustments to the theme park reservation system so that it suits the needs of the typical Disneyland Guest.
Are you concerned about how Disneyland theme park reservations will be handled when the parks reopen? Have you experienced the Disney Park Pass system at Disney World yet? Let us know in the comments.